Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Wreck It Ralph 500 Part II

The 2013 Southeastern 500 was an anticipated race given Bristol's history of crashes and also of driver/crew spats. And the Winston Cup Series will be talking about this one for awhile, but as has been seen before the discussion will be for reasons both good and bad. Start with the good of the weekend - the racing at Bristol after the track's change to the turns before last August's Volunteer 500 turned out to be interesting. The Nationwide 300-miler on Saturday saw several dices up front and a surprising finish as rookie Kyle Larson used lapped traffic and nearly got Kyle Busch at the line. The 500 turned out to be similar, though passing up front was noticeably harder and the leaders got strung out more. If anything the comparison shows anew justification for NASCAR to switch to smaller tapered engine spacers for the Cup cars, as the N'wide cars with 200 less HP saw some better racing. Regardless, Bristol has finally proven itself as a good racetrack, reverting to the form it had shown in its final four seasons before it was converted to concrete.

Another positive from the race was the stellar finish of Kurt Busch and the underfunded Furniture Row team, hustling to fourth place.   One should add also a respectable 13th for AJ Allmendinger.  


In the bad section, the crashes that are always a part of Bristol racing were out in force again, and this time there was also a tire issue - this following Phoenix's tire problems - with multiple blowouts and several hard crashes, notably the crash that wiped out race leaders Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth.   Goodyear stated there were issues of melting sealing beads caused by brake heat - which is another bad sign for this Generation Six car, which is noticeably faster and is handling poorly, which tends to lead to more braking.   It's also worth noting a crew chief who offered an alternate take on the race's tire issues.
Then there is Joey Logano, punted hard by Denny Hamlin on a restart, this following a set-to at Daytona.   If you remember his bad wreck at Irwindale in 2009 where he plowed sideways into the field, you saw right away a driver long on hype and short on talent as well as short on accountability and that this combination would mean a subpar at best Cup career.   It's now becoming more obvious how in over his head he is in Winston Cup and one can also suspect what kind of negative dynamic went into his stay at Joe Gibbs Racing given the nastiness between him and ex-teammate Denny Hamlin - though it's no endorsement of Hamlin, either, who has been described in ATHLON SPORTS as having the worst personality in the garage area.  

Speaking of negative dynamics, Stewart Haas Racing isn't exactly cleaning up, either, and given the presence of a certain Cup rookie on their roster, one need remember how two powerhouse Indycar teams - Rahal Letterman and Andretti Racing - suffered in the 2005-12 period during that rookie's tenure.

The lackluster crowd at the track has led to criticism of the track's mid-March date as opposed to the early-April date of the past, but this is a laughable criticism - March Bristol races have been fairly common in its history.

So the Southeastern 500 goes into the books and the 2013 begins building steam.

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